While Spokane Valley’s participation in Washington’s Commute Trip Reduction Plan program might seem fairly benign and routine, some members of the City Council expressed concerns Tuesday that it’s just another example of the state trying to roll roughshod over local jurisdictions.
The plan – which seeks to reduce carbon emissions and the number of vehicles on the road by encouraging alternative forms of drive-alone trips to and from employment – is funded by the state and has no impact on the city budget. But an executive order from the governor’s office seeks to expand the goals of the CTR program to increase the use of commute alternatives by 6 percent with an 18-percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.
The council initially adopted the city’s ordinance and plan in 2010 for a four-year period. Tuesday’s presentation was in preparation for a new cycle from 2015 to 2019, which is set to be voted on Jan. 27.
While there are no real penalties for noncompliance – LeAnn Yamamoto, who coordinates the program for Spokane County called it a “good faith policy” – some council members expressed concerns that the program represented government overreach from Olympia to Eastern Washington.
Morgan Koudelka, senior administrative analyst, said the program only affects companies with 100 or more employees and that it is very rare that there are any punitive measures from the state.
“It’s only the most extreme cases where they absolutely refuse,” Koudelka said.
Still, some council members expressed shock that there was a state law regarding commute-trip reduction dating back 24 years.
“I’m surprised we don’t have a rebellion,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard after learning that the CTR program has been in existence since 1991. “I always thought it was voluntary. I certainly want to compliment people who have fallen into the false science of greenhouse gases and stuff because nobody has proven anything about that yet. Mandatorily, I think the state’s in the wrong darn business on this.”
Council Member Ed Pace said it might be appropriate for Spokane Valley to “be a rebel city” and not comply.
Council Member Chuck Hafner said he wanted more information on the benefits or detriments to the city of Spokane Valley for participating.
“We can’t do anything about a state program,” he said.
“These are basically goals,” added Mayor Dean Grafos. “We’re not going out and fining people tomorrow morning if we approve this plan.”
Koudelka said the city has been recognized for its efforts but he understood the concerns. He reminded the council, however, that the impacts to the city were small.
“This is not the first law from Olympia that we’ve found distasteful,” Koudelka said. “I would ask you, though, if this is the battle you want to fight? What does it really mean to us?”